Hedeby Quiver – the finish

 

This part is really just a quick finish and review of the success or otherwise of the project.

First the hanging straps – we know they are folded leather, sewn with a saddle stitch along one edge. One end loops through the tab on the side and is stitched to itself. Interestingly, I quickly found that the top extension of the tab keeps the hanging strap sitting at the correct angle.

At the top end, we don’t know. We’re missing that bit. It could have been some sort of hook or escutcheon like these from Birka or just about anything. I’ve gone with the safe option and just repeated the loop from the other end of the strap. I don’t know what the width of the belt is that my client will be using, just that he wants the top of the quiver to sit at waist height.

Here’s how it looks:

I’ve borrowed my son’s 28″ arrows for the test, my 32″ monsters are a bit long for this period and type of quiver. There is a little wadded woolen fabric in the bottom to stop the heads marking the leather. I think it helps keep all the arrows at the same height, which is what I prefer. Without it the arrows in the centre would sit lower than the ones around the edge.

Now take a quick look back at the Leatherwork from Hedeby post. Having made this one, I’m fairly confident the finds at Hedeby represent two different, but similar quivers. I’ve think I’ve managed to match the shapes and angles of all the pieces, and in all but the outer seams on the carrying tabs, I’ve been able to match the thread impressions, or lack thereof on all pieces. I think there’s a fair chance the carrying tabs had a thin leather wrap around the edges as the originals had stitch holes but no thread impressions.

Here endeth the build. If you are interested, follow my attempt at a quiver from Nydam Mose on my other blog.

 

 

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Hedeby Quiver – part the third

When we left at the end of the previous episode, we’d just started assembling the front parts and the hanging tabs. The errata found that I’d misread the German, while it was early enough to do something about it.

I think we should all view this update as a learning experience, or several. Attaching the back was the same as attaching the lower front piece. The stitches go from the skin side on the back, out the edge, through both layers of the piping, through the edge of the front and out the skin side. Repeat as desired. I found as I went that the quiver tightened on the wooden core. Wrapping the core in unwaxed kitchen paper provided a low-friction layer and stopped the leather from getting stuck.

So on to our first disaster. It’s 35 degrees C inside, I’m sweating like the proverbial and I’m stitching with steel needles, pulling them through the leather layers with a pair of 19th century steel lasting pliers and my stupidly salty sweat starts pulling iron ions from the tools and transferring them to the leather, where they react to form perfect, black stained ferric tannate fingerprints.

The wisdom of the Internet suggested juice from a lemon as a good way of removing the stains, and the results were even better than advertised.

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After. And there was much rejoicing.

For the last half inch (or metric half-inch, if you prefer), I decreased the height of the piping until it was flat with the seam at the top. This makes fitting the collar piece a little easier.

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Finished main part of the quiver. The kitchen paper is visible, it made it much easier to get the wooden core out.

All the seams were dampened, and given a bit of a push or prod until I was satisfied with the way they sat.

I hit this with three good coats of dye and while that dried, made the mould for the collar.

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The mould was just a plank of radiata pine with the appropriate bits carved out and a ridge added to the the narrow bit near the top.

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The red stuff is car putty, I had a few problems with tear-outs. Case the leather, lay it over the design, clamp in place and work through from the back with a bone or wooden folder.

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I’ve used this technique on costrels before. When the leather is dry, peel it off.

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Cut off the spare bits, leaving enough to fold up along the bottom edge. The original has this edge folded and stitched. You may need to skive the edge, depending on how thick the leather is. Fold, stitch, do the back seam and put a roll of leather in the top ring. It comes out looking like this:

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The narrow bit needs a little work, I had to rewet it and gently work it into shape.

Dye this bit next…

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and discover that this piece of leather won’t take darker brown dye. I tried water-, spirit-, and oil-based dyes and none of them worked. I had to hurriedly make a new one from some different leather.

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I think this one is better, anyway. It took the dye properly and I was able to do the seam that holds it all together. Just the hanging straps to go now.

 

 

Hedeby quiver erratum

In what should probably come as a surprise to nobody, I made an error in my translation of the original German report. The carrying lugs attach “…at about one-third of the height… (…auf etwa einem Drittel der Höhe…)”. I’d taken that as the full height of the quiver and put them at 20cm/8″ down. They should be at one-third of the height of that front panel at 16cm/6.3″ from the top.

I’ll correct the first post when I get a chance.

Hedeby Quiver – part the first

I’ll assume everyone’s done the homework and read the Leatherwork from Hedeby post. If not, nip back and have a quick read. Check out the first couple of comments between Steve and me as well. I’ll wait…

This post is the first of a series about making my interpretation of a Hedeby quiver. It’s a combination of plates 22 and 25-27, trying to make sure all the pieces look at least vaguely like the ones found, knowing that there are two (or more) quivers in all the bits and in theory, paying attention to the presence or absence of thread marks on the leather.

This first part will be about making a last and the patterns for cutting the leather.

Here’s a dimensioned version of the reconstruction a. from figure 22.

hedeby-quiver

Hedeby quiver, front and right side view.

Dimensions and the location of the side seam and heights of the suspension lugs are from the text on pp 36-7. The teardrop shaped piece from figure 27. 2a or b isn’t shown, I’ll get to it in a while. I had a theory and hoped it would fall into place during the pattern making.

There was a week’s delay waiting for the workshop to be below 40°C during the times of day that I could make noise. We finally had a couple of cool days and I turned up a last the same shape and size as the interior of the quiver. The taper isn’t quite as steep as the proposed one in figure 22 because I’m not convinced that it would fit very many arrows if made as as shown.  The wooden last was covered with a layer of kitchen film and a couple of layers of masking tape.

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The next step was to mark out the individual pieces. The back piece is a bit more than 12 the width of the whole, and if the teardrop went where I thought, the front piece was about 9cm wide when measured about 4.5cm up from the point.

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An arbitrary line was drawn from the point to the end. I’m using the grout lines in the floor to stop the last rolling, and the flat bit of pine as a sledge for the pen. Measure up 4.5cm from the pointy end, measure 9cm across and mark for the second line. I then rolled the last on the floor until pen point on top of the bit of 19mm pine hit the right spot.

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Measure 35cm up from the point and draw two lines to the sides, ending about 4cm from the point. If you do it correctly, the straight lines will form tangents to the arc and you’ll  end up with a fairly perfect teardrop shape.

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L to R: back, lower front, front, last. Not shown, top band, piping, suspension lugs. I’ll cover the top band in its own part, and just wing the piping and lugs as I go.

There’s some bulging in the back and lower front, but there’ll be enough stretch in the leather to accommodate them. The thing I like about this design is that the arrow heads only contact the lower front part. This is held in with edge-flesh stitches, making it an easy piece to replace without having to dismantle the rest of the quiver.

In the next part: cutting, sewing, fitting and dyeing.

 

 

Another brilliant idea

I had a great idea, but not one so great that my foot fell off. Why not make a copy of the bracer in the British Museum?, I thought. It will be easy, I thought. I have the report with a nice clear drawing.

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Dalton, Antiquities Journal, Volume 2, 1922 p209

It looks fine, right up to the point where you compare it with the photograph of the real thing…

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Bracer in the british Museum. My photo. That is an awful lot of gold.

When you try to use the published drawing, you find out there’s all these little fiddles like changing the size of the spots to make it work. The height of the decorated panel is okay but the two narrow ones above it are compressed. The lettering is all over the place as well and the sides of each panel don’t line up with each other in the same way they do on the original. Oh well, I’ll have to redraw it for the next one. The photo also shows how the gilding runs.

The process is simple enough. Transfer your design to the leather – because this one is to be gilt and painted, I just used plain old office carbon paper.

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Straight off one of the problems becomes apparent. The pockles on the right have considerably more room than those on the left. I cut the outlines with a small straight blade as we’re predating swivel knives by several hundred years.

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Empockelate appropriately with a 1.6mm nail punch, using kitchen utensils and home made punches as appropriate. Punch the holes for the strap, realising that they are too close to the edges and are the reason all the other holes were put in later for thong. Also realise that one hole in the drawing is too far to the right when compared to the other three. I tried swearing at this point, but it didn’t move the hole, so you can skip that if you like.

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DieDye.

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Enstrap and buckle. I either have to get faster at buckle making or give it up and buy them, I spend far too much time making the wretched things. I’ve gone with a copper alloy double oval loop buckle with moulded pin rests, making it date to between 1550 and 1650. [Whitehead, R., Buckles 1250-1800, Greenlight Publishing, Chelmsford 1996]

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Painted bracer, it’s still a work in progress, I’ve since changed the colour of the crown.

Paint. The BM says some trace of pigment remains, having contacted them, it’s just a possible hint of red on the letters but they couldn’t tell me what the pigment was and if it was colour or bole (primer for the gilding). I’m going with colour, mainly from an ostentation point of view. Minium (red lead) substitute, rather than iron red in this case because it will be the same as on the rose. I also think the gilding is shell gold rather than leaf due to the way it sits down into the background rings and the narrow strips along the top and back would just be way too fiddly. There’s no evidence of the use of size under the gold in this case, either.

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The painting on the other side is restricted to just lining.

I’m doing a Tudor rose, contemporary with the text, rather than a Yorkist white rose to match the tradition. It’s slipped and crowned (which may make it as late as Henry VIII or even Elizabeth) which didn’t happen with York white roses and I’m doing brown and ochre oak leaves and acorns, just because.

Yeah, it’s acrylic paint. Yes, I know I’ll have to apologise to Jesus, but I’ve been lead to understand that he’s fairly forgiving.

So I think I’ve finished it, it’s gone well as a fair copy of the reported illustration but I’m largely unsatisfied with it. I’ll have to have another go later.


While we’re on the subject, I need to vent a bit. The report begins on p208 of the Antiquities Journal with the sentence, “THE archer’s bracer illustrated in the fig. on p. 209 is of cuir bouilli, …” The BM repeat the assertion in their online catalogue.

I’m not sure what the fascination of antiquaries/archaeologists of this period is with cuir bouilli, they see it everywhere. Cuir bouilli, as the name implies, is a heat curing process that by its nature precludes tooling of the finished article. If you’re after more information on the subject, have a look at Marc Carlson’s Hardened Leather which also has some experiments on different methods.

Finished Archer’s Bracers

This post is a follow up to Archer’s Bracers and Wooden Stamps (again) of the year before last. It’s mostly me showing off, with some self-justification to explain the decisions I made about dye colours and buckles. I started writing this post in September 2014, so forgive me if things seem a little outdated.

I’m quoting from Gervase Markham’s The Art of Archerie (1634) here, mainly for my own convenience because I can cut and paste from the ebook. Markham was a publisher and like his peers, made his money from the sheer number of different titles he sold rather than the more modern approach of having fewer stronger selling titles. Accuracy, readability, veracity and respecting ownership of intellectual property were not his strong points. In this case, he’s written a new dedicatory epistle to the king, a new first chapter (A general encomion or praise of shooting both in peace and war) and then basically plagiarized the second book of Ascham’s Toxophilus when he thought everyone had stopped reading. He has modernised Ascham’s language somewhat and added the occasional paragraph of his own.

…the bracer serves for two purposes, the one to save the arm from the stripe of the string, and his doublet from wearing; and the other, that the string gliding sharply and quickly of the bracer may make the sharper shot, for if the string should light upon the bare sleeve, the strength of the shot would stop and die there…

This next bit seems to be Markham’s own work and reflects mid-17th century practice rather than 16th c, Ascham is silent on the appropriate types of leather.

The bracers are made for the most part of Spanish leather, the smooth side outward, and they be the best, sometimes of Spanish leather and the flesh side outward, and they are both good and tolerable, and others are made of hard, stiff but smooth bend leather, and they be the worst and most dangerous, and thus much is spoken of the bracer.

When looking at the Mary Rose bracers, all are skin side outwards and only a couple are candidates for being of Spanish leather. I’ve used harness butt for all mine, it’s thick, flexible and takes stamping well. Most of the Mary Rose bracers are rectangular or octagonal, with a couple having curves on the long sides. I made a couple of each design, patterns were just the drawings from the MR book blown up to life size on a photocopier. Cut out the leather, case it and decorate with the stamps you made two years ago. Attack with the back of the butter knife if your design needs it. You may have done that two years ago as well…

Buckle, strap and pattern

Buckle and strap

Cut the straps to the correct width to fit the actual or hypothetical buckle and punch the holes for the rivets and mounting the buckle. I used a thin 1.5mm carving leather for the straps on the commercial buckles and a 3mm on the ones I’d made. “Y” shaped straps can be made by splitting a straight strap for part of its length, dampening the branching area and then stretching and squeezing to shape.

Dye the bits as required with your choice of leather dye. I used red on a couple to represent Spanish leather (the red colour came from a step in the tanning process), the majority are black or brown.

Buckles

Mild steel buckles

My bracer has a forged buckle, but to show what you can do at home, I made these from a piece of 1.6mm sheet mild steel I’d picked up from the local hardware. The shapes are entirely hypothetical because none of the Mary Rose bracer buckles have survived. The holes have been drilled and then opened up with files. On some of the square ones, I stitch drilled and then cut the webs with a cold chisel. Decoration is with sharp or blunt cold chisels and a centre punch. The buckle tongues are horseshoe nails with the heads cut off and then bent to an appropriate shape. Don’t forget to clean and debur the front and back.

The finish is a simple heat blue, a stable oxide of iron. I use a similar process to this, either using a propane torch or gas ring depending on what the gas bottle is connected to, but finish with a spray oil rather than a dip. Just do it outside and don’t breathe the fumes. You can blue in your oven if it can heat to 290°C/550°F.

Assemble all the bits using copper harness rivets (the impressions in the leather match the Mary Rose examples) and wax or seal to taste.

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Archer’s Bracers and Wooden Stamps (again)

I’ve talked about how easy it is to make wooden stamps a few times in the past. Here, here and here come to mind. I’m making some archer’s bracers based on Mary Rose originals to sell through Sven the Merchant and thought I’d take the opportunity to demonstrate a couple of techniques I use.

As before, the base for the stamp is tassie oak dowel, I like using this one because it is hard, has very fine end grain and can be easily heat hardened.

For most of the stamps, I created the stamp outlines on my PC at full size, reversed the original design and then printed them. After that I cut out the designs and glued them to the ends of the dowels.

Wooden stamps for Mary Rose Bracers

From left to right, stamps for Mary Rose 81A1185, 81A4639, 80A0901 and one marked up for 81A5826. I’ll cover that technique next.

Remove everything that isn’t stamp with saw, knife, chisel and/or drill, case the leather and start stamping to taste.

The second method is for the simpler stamp used on 81A5826, it needed a 3/8″ hole in the middle, surrounded with 1/8″ holes. I just marked up the centre and at 45° intervals and applied a centre punch and power drill.
Wooden stamp reject

The centre hole went a bit wonky, so I turned the dowel over and did it again on the other end.

Wooden stamps for Mary Rose Bracers

Much better this time.

Bracers, stamps and designs.

Stamps, bracers and templates everywhere. Just straps and buckles to go.

If you have Weapons of Warre, have a look at the section on bracers by Hugh Soar in Volume 2. You’ll see some finished ones here soon.